Originally, I was going to name this week’s blog “Waiting, Stuck in Transit” because that is how I felt about my situation at the beginning of week 6. I was in a period of transition, moving from the first half of the Fellowship to the second (albeit symbolic) and still in the midst of my broader adjustment to post-grad life.
Yet I was waiting.
Waiting to finish and publish my incomplete blog posts from the past three weeks.
Waiting to solidify an opportunity for after the Fellowship.
Waiting to feel like an official member of the Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center. (In the meantime, I allowed myself to remain somewhat isolated from most of my co-workers while focusing on my designated project, which does not require a significant amount of interaction.)
My feeling of dissatisfaction made me recall a radio commercial I had heard during my daily commute while I physically wait in transit. The ad quoted Benjamin Franklin as saying, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Then I thought of the assurance my dad has told me at times when I am frustrated for failing to complete my unrealistic daily to-do lists. He essentially reminds me that if we finished all our life’s work today, we would not have a purpose for our tomorrow. The statements can complement each other and serve as motivation, but neither helped me get “unstuck” from waiting in transit. I needed some way to measure my progress and make sure I was on track to meet my goals. Before that I needed to have set goals. Yes, less than ten weeks out of school, and I’m convinced that the S.M.A.R.T. goals I used to dread are truly a good thing. I want to start using them in my personal life.
This week’s Fellows Learning Session confirmed my desire to run my own life as seriously and intentionally as a nonprofit organization should be directed. The topic was program management and evaluation, and a statement of LaShaun Carter, Director of Strategy, Diversity, & Evaluation Services for Franklin County Children Services, stood out to me most. He said, “You don’t do what you don’t measure.” Simple as that. My life’s experience reinforces that notion.
In week 5 I finally set up a spreadsheet to track my work projects and their corresponding goals and objectives after hearing the idea from Emily Stuhldreher, another Fellow. I created a schedule of my planned use of time for the week and then recorded what I was actually spending my time on. It was helpful, but this Monday, I realized I should fill out a plan farther ahead than the current week, so I could ensure I would have enough time to finish my projects before the Fellowship ends. I then adjust my expectations slightly each day and week. The key is that I know what I am doing and where I am going because I measure those aspects.
I admit it seems rigid to apply that same type of structure and documentation to my life when I have never have before and often have managed to succeed anyway. However, Dr. Melissa Crum, Founder and Consultant for Mosaic Education Network, described the targets in program evaluations as “flexible goal posts,” and LaShaun acknowledged that progress can be made without meeting designated thresholds. Instead, he emphasized focusing on the process and seeking continuous improvement. The same would apply in measuring my own life.
As an individual, I also have another similarity to nonprofits, which makes it worthwhile to manage progress toward my goals. Nonprofits need to show funders their use of resources and the impact they’re having to receive support. Likewise, personal relationships are sustained by reliably meeting certain expectations, so I have a considerable stake in doing that well. That’s why I’m ready to run my life like a nonprofit program.